WHEN?

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There is a growing consensus that the Arctic sea ice melt problem has grown beyond the point of no return. Scientists across the globe now are asking when, rather than whether, the planet will experience rising seas so high that coastal communities worldwide are uninhabitable.

Some studies predict that many coastal cities and island nations will disappear under the water by the turn of the century. Other studies project that by mid-century millions now living in coastal communities will be forced to move to higher ground.

These scientific reports are frightening reminders that babies born today will experience during their lifetimes a world dramatically different than that experienced by their parents. Their world will include frequent food supply disruptions due to crops damaged by temperature fluctuations, including intense heat waves and extreme winters. Many land animals and water-based species now abundant will be extinct. Air quality too will diminish.

The scientific evidence now is impossible to deny. Arctic sea ice is melting at an unprecedented rate and water is rising.

The USA’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reports that “the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a faster rate than the younger and thinner ice at the edges of the Arctic Ocean’s floating ice cap.”

Peter Wadhams explains: “Just a few decades ago, ice 10 to 12 feet thick covered the North Pole, with sub-surface ice ridges in some parts of the Arctic extending down to 150 feet. Now, that ice is long gone, while the total volume of Arctic sea ice in late summer has declined, according to two estimates, by 75 percent in half a century. … This monumental change is triggering a cascade of effects that will amplify global warming and could destabilize the global climate system.”

The USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concurs that sea ice “influences the global climate.” Its Arctic Report Card states that “the sustained transformation to a warmer, less frozen, and biologically changed Arctic remains clear.”

NOAA also reports: “The average annual land surface air temperature north of 60° N for October 2019-September 2020 was the second highest on record since at least 1900. Record warm temperatures in the Eurasian Arctic were associated with extreme conditions in the ocean and on the land.”

When – by what date certain – will we change our behavior to slow the pace at which Arctic sea ice is melting?